A true leader: backup quarterback leads from the sideline

TRENTON ABREGO Sports Reporter

Even though he’s only thrown eight passes this year, senior quarterback Zach Lujan has made a difference for the South Dakota State football team by standing on the sideline.

Lujan started eight games last season, throwing for 1,861 yards and 16 touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Taryn Christion started the other four games after Lujan went down with an injury. 

The starting quarterback for the 2016 season was not named until the week of their opening game against Texas Christian University.

Christion was named the starter and took control over the offense. This did not hurt the friendship between the two of them though. 

“We hang out on and off the field, watch film together, the whole nine yards,” Lujan said. 

Head Coach John Stiegelmeier thinks this is something positive both for the team and themselves.

“That just goes to show what type of people they are. Great people,” Stiegelmeier said. 

Christion agreed that their friendship has grown stronger. 

“It’s a great friendship between us and we have gotten really close,” Christion said. 

After every offensive drive, whether positive or not, Lujan’s leadership is on display. Christion runs to the sideline and sits on the bench up against the grandstand—Lujan then comes to offer praise and critique.

“He just reminds and tells me to slow the flow of the game down and to get my reads down,” Christion said. “He just has my back.” 

Lujan had a similar experience in 2014 when he stepped in as the new starting quarterback after Austin Sumner went down with an injury.

“I am just trying to do what Austin [Sumner] did for me, giving him [Christion] the wisdom that I’ve learned over the years,” Lujan said.

Christion sees the same leadership qualities in Lujan that Zach saw in Sumner. 

“I have looked up to Zach [Lujan] since I was a senior in high school,” Christion said.

Lujan admits it hasn’t been easy making the transition from starter to mentor, but he still takes on captain duties to the best of his abilities.

“It’s tough as a competitor, you want to play and compete, but I’m ready to help the team in any way on or off the field,” Lujan said.

Stiegelmeier knew that it would be a tough transition for Lujan, but thinks he has handled it well.

“I have been more than impressed in how he [Lujan] has handled it, I mean senior, captain, backup is a pretty awkward title, but he’s dealt  with it good and shown he is a team-first type of guy,” Stiegelmeier said. 

Christion isn’t satisfied with just being the starting quarterback, though; he wants to win as well.

“We have two losses so saying I am satisfied with the performances would just not be true,” Christion said. 

It has already shaped up to be a good year for the sophomore quarterback. He has 15 passing touchdowns this season, which is third in the FCS, and he has a throw completion percentage of 69.7.

Lujan has also seen the field in all four of the Jackrabbit games so far this season. He has completed four of his eight passes for 62 yards and two touchdowns. Lujan came into the game twice against Cal Poly after Christion came off the field with an ankle injury.

“I will always be ready to be the next guy up off the bench,” Lujan said.